Winemakers have used oak barrels since Roman times. Ageing in these vessels can have many desirable benefits, such as flavours and aromas of vanilla, cedar and sweet spices.
Why is oak used?
Oak barrels have been the wine-storing vessel of choice for centuries. During the Romans’ advance into Europe, they discovered the oak barrels used by the Gauls were a much better alternative to the heavy clay amphorae they had historically used to transport their wines.
Centuries later, winemakers made the fortunate discovery that wine stored in oak barrels had actually become much more tasty. Over time, the oak ageing softened the wine and imparted complementary flavours. Many famous wines have developed their hallmark styles due to the use of oak barrels by the winemaker.
Not all grape varieties suit the influence of oak barrels, so the winemaker will decide if the wine needs the added flavours – and expense – of oak. There are a number of different styles of oaked wine – the best way to learn more about the differences is to explore a variety of wines.If you want to try some great examples of oaked wines, try these:
Definition Chardonnay, Limoux
Definition Rioja Reserva
Château Grand Faurie La Rose, St-Emilion Grand Cru
1000 Stories' Bourbon Barrel Zinfandel, California